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Film review: Blair Witch – found-footage horror reboot offers more of the same fare

Third instalment (with less shaky camerawork) takes its time to build up to a nerve-shredding finale in the Black Woods of Maryland

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 20 September, 2016, 7:03am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 20 September, 2016, 1:07pm

3/5 stars

Adam Wingard’s Blair Witch breathes life into a franchise dormant since the risible Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 flopped 16 years ago. A year earlier, Daniel Myrick and Eduardo Sanchez’s low-budget indie film The Blair Witch Project frightened filmgoers with its “found footage” tale of teenagers investigating the legend of the Blair Witch in the Black Hills woods in Maryland.

Wingard knows he’ll never repeat that trick, but he keeps this sequel/reboot close in other ways. James Allen McCune plays James Donahue, brother to Heather – one of the missing adolescents from the Myrick/Sanchez movie. When a clue to her whereabouts appears, he resolves to head into the woods to rescue her, accompanied by three friends (Callie Hernandez, Brandon Scott, Corbin Reid) and two oddball locals (Wes Robinson, Valorie Curry) along for the ride.

How a Hollywood director tricked his actors into starring in the Blair Witch sequel without knowing it

Scripted by Simon Barrett, Blair Witch doesn’t offer anything radically different from the original, as these foolhardy youngsters camp out and freaky things start happening. Best known for his grisly tales You’re Next and The Guest, Wingard innovates by having the actors wear earpiece cams – a move that lessens the nausea-inducing “shaky cam” style from the original.

The question is: is it scary? “Eventually” is the answer. Wingard takes his sweet time, building atmosphere – despite certain plot strands hitting dead ends. Ultimately, it pays off with a nerve-shredding finale every bit as shiver-inducing and despairing as the original. Still, rather like the film’s Möbius strip structure, you’ll leave the cinema with a sneaky feeling you’ve seen it all before.

Blair Witch opens on September 22

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